That Printer of Udell's: A Story of the Middle West by Harold Bell Wright
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Set in the early 1900s, That Printer of Udell's (first copyright 1902) is an entertaining tale of the churches of a small town, Boyd City, IL, having a reputation with outsiders as being generally unhelpful to society. They love to talk about theological points, but they don't offer any practical help to those who are down and out. The two protagonists of the book, Dick and George, are both lauded in some ways as more Christian than the Christians, though both resist Christianity and the Church, thoughtfully, because of the seeming hypocrisy and lack of compassion of the Church in general.
The key text of the novel is from Matt 25: Inasmuch as you have not done it unto the least of these, you have not done it unto me.
The book reveals the tension between loving Christ but not his imperfect Church. I appreciate the fact that the book doesn't completely abandon the Church, but shows that the Church can be reformed, and even in its impurer states, often offers more than the world.
On a sidenote, President Reagan read That Printer of Udell's at age 11, which prompted him to declare his faith publicly by means of baptism. In a letter to Mrs. Wright (the author's widow, I presume), he acknowledged that Dick served in many ways as a role model to him.
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